...I used to read a lot of computer magazines. Compute, Creative Computing, Omni and many others would either show up at my home or more likely, get bought with whatever money I was able to scrounge up. Pizza and the latest issue would be the order of the day, and I would eat my slice happily as I walked home and dreamed of computers not yet owned and software not yet purchased.
One of the features of many computer magazines at the time were small postcards you could take out of the back pages. These cards, called reader service cards, would let you circle small numbers and indicate to some of the magazine's advertisers that you were interested in their product and wanted more information. Now, to a reasonable person, say, an adult reading the magazine, they might fill out one or two circles to get a catalog without having to call somewhere or waste postage. But that wasn't the case to me at 12 years old. This was an opportunity to get all these wonderful companies to send me neat stuff for free. So I did what anyone in my position (and perspective) would do..
...I circled them all.
Dozens of letters would arrive every day; my mother had no idea what to make of it. I started using multiple names, just so I could roughly track what flyers, leaflets and catalogs were coming as a result of which magazine. I quickly figured out that Creative Computing had the most active companies sending me stuff, so I'd hit them up for even more. My room started collecting piles of ads, papers, what have you being mailed to me. I started putting them all in a box, so I could look at them later, which of course I never really did. As time went on and the years passed, I kept the box and the papers inside, although as it moved from house to college to my apartments, it got a little roughed up.
Years later, I finally took the box out of storage in my basement, sorted through it, moved things around, stacked by size, and began the process of cataloging and understanding exactly what I had. And the short answer is, I have a ton of fascinating stuff! Catalogs of companies now long gone (and forgotten), brochures promising you the world in eight bits, newsletters of what amazing things were around the corner. I found small photocopied pamphlets from software firms that were probably three guys in a basement, and four-color perfect-looking flyers from what was probably ALSO three guys in a basement (who spent some money to hire a fourth guy in an office building somewhere.) I found all the old products I'd drooled over, and amazed myself at the prices of how much things cost back then (and I even understand why my father kept saying "No" to me wanting the latest gimgaws I read about). In other words, this is a treasure trove of history!
I thank you for reading this, and I hope you enjoy these unreachable paper promises of my youth.